What Are Liver Spots?

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Liver spots are small, dark spots on the skin that develop from excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, usually from the sun. They are not skin cancer. They are cosmetic in nature and are generally not cause for concern.

This article discusses what liver spots look like, what causes them, and possible treatment options to diminish their appearance.

liver spots


What Are Other Names for Liver Spots?

Liver spots are also called age spots, sunspots, or solar lentigo.

Liver Spot Symptoms

Liver spots are painless and harmless. Liver spots can affect all skin types but are more common among adults with light skin. 

Most commonly, liver spots are:

  • Flat and oval in shape
  • Tan, brown, or dark brown
  • Freckle size or slightly bigger to about half an inch (13 millimeters across)
  • Grouped together

Liver spots are often a sign that the skin has gotten a great deal of sun exposure. Pigmentation is your skin’s way of protecting itself from further sun damage. 

Liver spots are most common in the areas that get the most sun exposure, such as the:

  • Face
  • Forehead
  • Backs of hands
  • Shoulders
  • Forearms

Do Liver Spots Affect Your Liver?

Liver spots have nothing to do with the liver; they are specific to the skin. 

What Causes Liver Spots?

Generally, sun exposure causes liver spots. The overproduction of melanin—a skin pigment produced in response to UV light exposure—changes skin color.

Liver spots are most common after age 40 due to years spent in the sun. However, young people can also get liver spots if they have had significant UV exposure from the sun or other UV light sources, like tanning beds. Tanning outside or in a tanning bed can also cause liver spots.


A healthcare provider can usually identify liver spots by looking at them. You may even be able to identify them yourself, especially if you have had plenty of sun exposure over time. 

Because treatment can vary, distinguishing liver spots from other skin conditions is important. Dark spots that change in appearance may require medical attention because they may not be liver spots but rather a sign of a more serious skin problem. 

Talk to your healthcare provider if you notice a dark skin spot that:

  • Has uneven color or changes in color
  • Increases in size
  • Has an irregular border

If you have dark spots and are wondering if they are liver spots or something else, it’s best to get a healthcare provider’s assessment. They may take a skin biopsy to see if there is any sign of skin cancer.


Liver spots do not go away on their own, but medical treatments can lighten or remove them.

Many products—like facial creams—claim to renew aging skin or get rid of age spots, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved a few products to treat aging and sun-damaged skin. 

Treatment for liver spots may include:

  • Prescription medications—such as bleaching creams—to make the liver spots fade over time
  • Laser therapy, which destroys melanin-producing cells
  • Dermabrasion to sand down the top layer of skin to let new skin grow


Liver spots are harmless to your health.

True liver spots are not cause for concern; they are a cosmetic sign of sun damage. 

However, dark spots that change over time may signify a more serious skin condition, and a healthcare provider should look at them. If you are worried about dark spots on your skin, talking with your healthcare provider to get the right diagnosis and treatment is best.

You may prevent future liver spots from developing by using sun protection, such as:

  • Sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays
  • Sun-protective clothing, such as hats and long-sleeved shirts

For many people, liver spots are very common and a normal part of aging.


Liver spots—also known as age spots, sunspots, or solar lentigo—are flat, dark spots on the skin that appear as a result of UV light damage, often from the sun. They are common among older adults and people with light skin.

Liver spots have nothing to do with the liver. They are simply a sign of UV light or sun exposure over time and are different from more serious skin conditions like skin cancer.

Liver spots are not serious and don't require medical care, but a healthcare provider can lighten or remove for cosmetic reasons. If your spots are black or have changed in appearance, your healthcare provider should look at the spots.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. MedlinePlus. Liver spots.

  2. American Academy of Dermatology Association. 10 surprising facts about indoor tanning.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What are the symptoms of skin cancer?

  4. MedlinePlus. Skin aging.

  5. American Academy of Dermatology Association. What can get rid of age spots?

  6. National Institute on Aging. Skin care and aging.

By Emily Brown, MPH
Emily is a health communication consultant, writer, and editor at EVR Creative, specializing in public health research and health promotion. With a scientific background and a passion for creative writing, her work illustrates the value of evidence-based information and creativity in advancing public health.